One of those buzz words you hear bandied about in video game reviews is “originality”. Critics have always complained that games should offer something new, and not simply be a rehash of what is already on the market. Primal is one of those kinds of games that flies directly against this ideology, and yet manages to be a decent adventure game in the end.
Instead of coming up with a completely new idea, Sony employed the best elements from a wide range of games. Primal
manages to resemble Ico, the Mark of Kri, Soul Reaver, Dark Cloud 2, the Getaway
, and even Resident Evil
. I’m almost sure the list is longer than that, but I really don’t want to dwell on the notion that the game is not very original. Instead, I think Primal should be celebrated as being a success, even if its creativity is in question.
Primal is the story of Jen, a waitress with a rather awkwardly placed tattoo, and her adventure to find her boyfriend. Of course, finding him won’t be easy, as he was taken to a completely different world, one that doesn’t look anything like the cityscape Jen is used to.
To help the transition, Jen teams up with a walking, talking gargoyle statue, named Scree. Together they make an unstoppable team that ends up helping purify the Undine’s water, helping a father and son reunite, and even sneak into a rather grotesque gathering in a majestic ballroom.
Like most adventure games, Primal relies heavily on its plot, weaving several stories together to make one of the most fulfilling adventures on the PlayStation 2. The game does have its fair share of cinema-scenes, but doesn’t bog the pace down with them. Instead the game manages to tell the story of a lost, and hopeless girl and how she became a self confident, and insightful woman.
Picturesque scenes like this are far and few in this adventure.
For much of the game you have full control over both Jen and her companion, Scree. While Jen ends up being the fighter, Scree finds himself doing a lot of the grunt work and menial tasks. He is able to climb certain walls, walk against heavy water currents, completely avoid enemies, and many other things Jen cannot do by herself. On the flip side, Jen has a fair share of character traits unique to her that you will need to exploit by the end of the game. Together they can help each other out, and make a fierce team able to handle just about any challenge thrown their way.
For the most part the computer-controlled character will follow right behind you, but this is not always the case. The AI tends to get caught on objects that litter the landscape, and Scree who is supposed to collect the items, often needs a little coaxing before he’ll do it. These are minor gripes, but it seems like in this day and age good AI this stuff should be a given.
No matter where Jen and Scree end up going, prepare to be teleported from one bleak environment to another, making Primal feel almost like an advertisement for Prozac. You start in what appears to be the dead of winter, only to be followed up with the murky depths of a poisoned waterway. By the time you’ve beaten the game you’ve traveled through a rainstorm to pits of fire, and you’ll be good and ready for something a little more bright and cheerful.
The level designs are nice, including a great deal of detail and personality. Each of the worlds look completely different, and even offer unique architecture and creatures to fight. The graphics are a little misleading, though, as the game has a funny way of looking a lot bigger than it actually is.
Most of the areas you run through only have one path, and no real way of altering the course you are on. The game is an extremely linear process, and the level design understands that. This isn’t all bad, as it has giving the programmers a chance to create facilitating visuals filled with individuality. The backgrounds are right out of a horror film, even if the game never manages to deliver any scares.
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